Islam provides specific guidelines for how an individual's property should be handled after death. The Holy Quran outlines the principles of the “Islamic Law of Inheritance,” emphasising the every Muslim should create a will (wasiyyah). This will ensure the proper distribution of assets in line with Sharia laws upon their passing. However, navigating the intersection of Sharia inheritance and the English law of succession can be complex, posing challenges not only for the general public but also for experts.
As a result, it’s not uncommon for Muslims with ties to the UK to stumble upon difficulties in making a will that aligns with both UK law and Sharia law. In this article, we’ll look at why these legal frameworks require careful consideration and how individuals can go about making a Sharia compliant will that reflects their wishes.
Challenges in aligning English law with Sharia Inheritance
English law doesn’t treat the Sharia rules on inheritance as an independent set of regulations. Simply stating in a will that Sharia should apply is not recognised, and this approach is likely to lead to intestacy (i.e. how your assets are distributed when you die without a will).
Furthermore, Sharia principles vary across different communities, like the Shia and Sunni groups, making it challenging to precisely interpret and apply these principles within the framework of English law. The result is a complex landscape where bringing together both English legal requirements and Sharia becomes intricate.
Sharia refers to the principles of law within the Muslim religion. Grounded in the Holy Quran, the Sunnah, Hadith, and interpretations by Islamic scholars, Sharia is the comprehensive term for Islamic law. In Arabic, Sharia translates into ‘law,’ eliminating the need for the redundant term ‘Sharia law.’ So, for the purpose if this article, we’ll use ‘Sharia’ to describe this body of principles.
Diversity in Islamic Traditions
While all Muslims follow the Quran and recognise Muhammed as a prophet, the faith has evolved into two main branches with distinct traditions. Sunni and Shi’a stand as the most widely practised branches of Islam.
Sunni, prevalent among over 80% of Muslims worldwide, is more widespread than Shi’a, which holds the majority in specific countries such as Iran and Bahrain. The primary division between Sunni and Shi’a revolves around the succession of Mihammad, with additional distinctions stemming from this initial difference.
A will is a legally binding document that outlines how a person’s assets will be distributed after their passing. In the context of Islamic principles, a Sharia-compliant will aligns with the rules of the Islamic law of succession.
It is a duty for every Muslim to create a Will, ensuring the proper distribution of their property in accordance with Sharia upon their death. This practice reflects the religious responsibility for Muslims to manage their affairs in line with Islamic principles, even in matters of inheritance.
Requirements for a legally binding Islamic will in the UK
As Sharia isn’t acknowledged under English law, creating a legally binding Islamic will in the UK involves meeting specific conditions dictated by UK law. Individuals must:
Be 18 years or above;
Have the mental capacity to create a will;
Make sure the will is in writing;
Declare that they authored the will;
Legally confirm that this is their final will, rendering any precious wills invalid;
Sign the will in the presence of two witnesses, neither of whom is a spouse of beneficiary.
While Sharia doesn’t mandate a written will, English law necessitates it. To make a will both Sharia-compliant and legally valid in the UK, consider the following conditions:
The executor must be a Muslim;
Women or individuals with disabilities can be executors or executrices;
Rejecting executorship is more complex under Sharia than English law, especially if the testator passes away before the rejection;
The exact estate distribution is determined only upon the testator’s death;
At least two-thirds of the estate must go to living family members, with specific rules like male children receiving double the shares of female children;
One third of the estate can be left to anyone, such as a charity;
Certain heirlooms must be bequeathed to the elder son;
Sharia prohibits directing the use of the body for research or cremation. Transplant or therapeutic use are allowed in specific circumstances;
A will made by someone under the influence, diminished mental capacity, or coerced is invalid;
A will excluding any heir is invalid under Sharia unless the excluded person consents, with exceptions for specific situations.
Sticking to and understanding these conditions ensure the legal validity of an Islamic Will in the UK, providing a framework within which individuals can align their intentions with both Sharia and English law.
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